Ensuring the physical and psychological safety of doctors in their workplaces is imperative in order to provide the best care possible to patients. To this end, Doctors of BC has taken significant action to improve workplace safety through the Memorandum of Agreement on Physical/Psychological Safety (now referred to as the Physician Health and Safety Agreement). Incorporated into the 2019 Physician Master Agreement, this Agreement makes it so that physicians have the opportunity to be included in widespread systemic change to better support physical and psychological health and safety in the workplace. It is also the first agreement of its kind in Canada and the first time Doctors of BC has worked with the Ministry of Health, the Health Employers Association of BC, health authorities, and health care related bargaining associations on issues specific to physician safety.
Doctors of BC is acutely aware of physical and psychological safety concerns in the physician workplace. In our 2021 Health Authority Engagement Survey - What We Heard Report, half of respondents indicated they believe effective actions are not being taken to promote a healthy and safe workplace. And in our 2021 Health Authority Engagement Survey, two key issues stood out:
1 in 2 physicians have been impacted by a physical/psychological safety incident
Only 1 in 2 physicians feel their hospital effectively takes action to prevent violence in the workplace
The ultimate goals of the Agreement are to:
The Agreement has established a number of new regional and provincial committees, structures, and working groups focused specifically on enhancing and improving physical and psychological health and safety in the workplace. It aims to accomplish this by supporting activities that enable consistent policies and procedures for physician specific occupational health and safety issues including: exposure management, contact tracing, enabling feedback loops, and more. The Agreement also provides funding for the following committees, structures, and Working Groups to begin activities that support physician health and safety.
Committees and Working Groups:
A number of regional and provincial projects and activities are underway that seek solutions to creating systemic change and that create opportunities for physicians to raise and provide input into health and safety issues and processes. Here is a list by Health Authority:
Interior Physician Health and Safety Working Group: this group has a number of projects underway in 2022, covering the following topics:
Physician Focus Group on Respectful Workplace and Disciplinary Processes: this project is intended to better understand what policies, processes, and communications are working well from a physician’s perspective when it comes to respectful workplace and disciplinary processes, as well as those that aren’t. Since these policies and processes can contribute to a reduced sense of psychological safety for physicians, and be challenging and stressful to manage for Health Authority leadership.
The goal of this project is to improve psychological safety in the workplace by addressing identified issues, and building trust and stronger relationships between medical staff and leadership.
Process Mapping for Incident Reporting: this project aims to implement multiple ways in which an incident can be reported, as well as outline clear expectations of the processes involved should an incident occur. An incident can be physical violence, a safety incident such as exposure or injury, or psychological safety including discipline and respectful workplace issues. Therefore, the goal of this project is to identify areas of improvement to create a more simplified pathway for physicians, medical leadership, and health authorities to report incidents, ultimately creating a more psychologically safe workplace.
Physician Occupational Safety and Health Program (POSH): this program provides occupational health services for physicians, specifically on communicable disease management. It was created in response to COVID-19 to both provide these services in a crisis and to help keep physicians safe and healthy.
Psychological Health & Safety Physician Education and Training: this project seeks to leverage content that was previously developed at BC Women’s and Children’s and expand training to physicians across PHSA. Training concepts would aim to operationalize clinical research and teaching practice to support a psychologically healthy and safe workplace. The following modules are currently under development:
Focus groups to identify gaps in Occupational Health & Safety processes: Facilitated by physicians for physicians, the aim of these focus groups is to identify gaps in Occupational Health and Safety processes specifically with medical staff in Providence Health Care facilities.
WorkSafeBC Physician Registration Guide: Doctors of BC and WorkSafeBC have updated the WSBC Physician Registration Guide to provide physicians with enhanced information on the processes and protocols for registering for WSBC coverage. The revised guide can be viewed here.
For further information specific to your region, please contact your Regional Advisor and Advocate.
Supporting BC physicians in their pursuit of workplace health and safety has become an increasingly important priority for Doctors of BC. Our work in this area includes our 2017 policy statement Promoting Psychological Safety for Physicians, our 2016 policy statement Preventing Violence in Healthcare, and local initiatives established via the Divisions of Family Practice and Medical Staff Associations.
For Doctors of BC resources on physician health and safety, please visit our Physician Health & Safety webpage.
Physical and psychological health and safety are vital in creating safe work environments that contribute to injury prevention and that cultivate innovative, engaged, and effective teams. Physician health and safety is comprised of two components:
In the absence of psychological safety, physicians are less likely to speak up, raise patient safety issues, suggest new ideas, or ask for help when they experience any of these events, for fear of reprisal or embarrassment. Research also shows that creating a work environment in which doctors feel safe contributes to their overall well-being, and is crucial for organizational efforts aimed at reducing medical errors, improving the coordination and quality of care, and increasing cost effectiveness.
Any physician who is experiencing issues of physical or psychological health and safety, or who has been involved or impacted by it in the past, is encouraged to contact your local Regional Advisor and Advocate.